Backing in ... big time

MIKE GANTER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 12:34 PM ET

It was a disturbing sign, particularly at this time of year. Given the opportunity to punch their own ticket to the playoffs, the Raptors instead left it up to someone else to do the job for them.

A win over the hapless Charlotte Bobcats last night would have guaranteed a playoff berth, one of three scenarios that would get the job done.

But after the Bobcats outplayed the Raptors down the stretch for a 105-100 win, it fell to the Washington Wizards to secure the playoff berth for Toronto with a 109-95 win over the Miami Heat.

"We just have to play better," a short and to the point Chris Bosh said after the game. "We have to do a better job, plain and simple."

How bad was the Raptors franchise player feeling about his team's play right now?

Asked if there was enough time left to fix the problems that have been dragging the Raptors down this past month, Bosh wasn't ready to acknowledge even that.

"Shoot, I have no idea," he said. "We're not acting like it to be honest. We have to play like the time is now and I don't think we're doing a very good job of that. It's intensity and urgency. That's what it takes sometimes to put a team away or compete a little bit better."

After opening up the second half down by five to the Bobcats, the Raptors came on like a team determined to put an inferior opponent away. The Raps opened up an eight-point lead with just under four minutes remaining but couldn't hold it taking a mere two-point lead into the fourth.

In the fourth, the Raps had no answer for point guard Raymond Felton, who went off for 14 of his 21 points.

The final dagger came in the form of an Earl Boykins' steal. Boykins, shadowing T.J. Ford as he danced around the perimeter with 45 seconds remaining and the Raps down by a point, took the ball from Ford, then raced him down the court for a bucket and a foul on Ford that he converted for a four-point Bobcats lead.

"I don't think that one play dictates the whole game," Ford said. "We just have to do a better job in the fourth quarter."

It had been shaping up to be a pretty good night for Ford, who matched his season high for assists with 14 and was getting some love from the soldout Air Canada Centre for a change. That all changed with the Boykins' theft.

While the Washington win wound up clinching a playoff berth for the Raps, it also put the Wizards and the Philadelphia 76ers, who also were victorious last night, a game up on the Raps.

A seventh-place finish earns the lucky qualifier a first-round date with the Detroit Pistons, which likely means an early exit from the playoffs.

Ford said the onus is on the Raptors to take advantage of a favourable schedule down the stretch -- five of their six remaining games are against sub-.500 teams -- and earn a better first-round matchup.

Raptors coach Sam Mitchell said the Raps had better find their defensive game and soon or it could be a very short post-season.

"We are not executing on defence when we need to execute," he said. "We have stretches when we play good defence and then we have stretches when we just don't and you can't do that trying to make the playoffs or going into the playoffs, you just cannot do it."

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REPLAY

TURNING POINT

The Raps got the deficit down to a point with a minute remaining but an Earl Boykins steal off T.J. Ford followed by an old-fashioned three-point play put the Bobcats up for good.

LINEUP CHANGE

Strange choice by Bobcats head coach Sam Vincent who chose to start Jermareo Davidson at power forward in place of Jared Dudley, who in three previous games against the Raptors has averaged 14 points and seven assists.

ANOTHER CHANGE

The Bobcats came out for the second half without their second leading scorer in Gerald Wallace. Wallace apparently had soreness in his left groin.


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